ADULTERY - FORNICATION
By Waddell Moore
After reading several preachers’ views on divorce and remarriage - their trying to justify receiving adulterous people into the fellowship of, and retaining them, in the church - I feel led to write about what constitutes marriage, and the difference between adultery and fornication. And to see if the church can Scripturally receive and retain adultery in her fellowship. It is appalling when the majority of elders, deacons, and members of Primitive Baptist churches do not know the difference, and worse, if they deceitfully misinterpret the Scriptures. Some want to call unlawful sex between married persons fornication to justify receiving and retaining adultery in the church. The Great head and Saviour of the Church, and the chief apostle to the Gentiles certainly made a difference between the two.
Of course the act is the same, but the application is not the same, and we hope to show the difference by the Scriptures and language. Jesus in reprimanding the Pharisees said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, ADULTERIES (moicheia), FORNI (porneia), thefts, false witness, blasphemies:” (Matt. 15:19). The apostle Paul writing to the church at
The meaning of words never really change from their original coining, but evil men, to suit their case often add, modify, or alter the original meaning. One of the axioms that I was taught in accounting was that “figures do not lie, hut liars will figure,” that is, in order to arrive at the answer they desire.
Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 3rd Ed., and the same International Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd Ed, give the following definitions: “Adultery, voluntary sexual intercourse by a married man with another than his wife, or by a married woman with another than her husband.” If it had not been voluntary it would have been rape.
sexual intercourse on the part of an unmarried person.” This was the only definition of the two for fornication. However, the Greek and Scriptural use of adultery is the same as above; while that of fornication is inclusive of all sexual uncleanness or
Many elders and churches in trying to justify adultery in the church misinterpret fornication in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 to mean adultery. But to do this is to err, as there is a time element involved. Married persons cannot commit fornication in this act, but adultery. Single persons cannot commit adultery, but can commit fornication.
The Scriptural example of adultery is, “For the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and adulteress shall surely be put to death.” (Thus, no divorce and remarriage possible on the grounds of adultery.) The Scripture is plain that each of these persons were married to another person. (Lev. 20:10) Now, for an example of fornication: and “If a man entice (persuade) a maid (an unmarried woman, a virgin) that is not betrothed (engaged to be married) and lie with her (for sexual gratification)
We said there was a time element that distinguished between adultery and fornication. Here is the Scripture, “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found SOME UNCLEANNESS in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it into her hand, and send her out of his house... “(Deut. 24:1) The phrase, “When a man hath taken a wife,” means, when he has wooed her and asks her to be his wife, and she agrees. They then perform the marriage rite, and vow before God and man to live together until death parts them. They are now bride and bridegroom, but not man and wife. The phrase, “and married her,” tells us when they become man and wife. That, when the marriage is consummated by their first intimate union, she is no more a bride, but a wife, and he is no more a bridegroom, but a husband.
For him to put her away according to the sufferance of Moses, what must she be guilty of, and when? The cause is “some uncleanness,” but in our English translation this is too vague. (Editor’s note: In a future issue, we shall deal very thoroughly on the Hebrew text of Deut. 24:1, for in that very phrase, is the key to understanding Matthew 19 where Christ is answering it for the adulterous Pharisees who taught a man could put away his wife “for every cause.”) If we examine the words some and uncleanness in the Hebrew, we find what the cause was. Then if we refer to Deut. 22:13-14, we find when the uncleanness was contracted. Translating our word some from the Hebrew, we find the word to be dabar, with its meaning to be “act, affair, matter or thing” and translated over a thousand times as “words about, spoke, commanded, reported, etc.” The word uncleanness is ervah which means nudity, or nakedness, and used forty-nine times as “uncovered the nakedness” of someone. So we find that the cause of “some uncleanness” to be the report, words of, or the matter of exposing her nakedness. And this exposure is for the act of fornication before marriage, which act is a specific form of fornication, or pornia, and the only form which does not carry the death penalty under the law except that which may legally be redeemed by marriage as given above. That this is so, Moses says: “If any man take a wife, and go into her (first intimate union), and hate her, and bring an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid (virgin).” (Deut. 22:13-14). If the charge is true, she had intimate union with another before her marriage, and was guilty of fornication, and she was stoned to death. Again, in this situation, divorce and remarriage is not possible under the law. But, if the charge was untrue, he must live with her until death. If he were a good (sic) man like Joseph, when he found Mary, the mother of Jesus, pregnant with Him; he could have written her a bill of divorcement, and sent her out of his house, and not have her stoned her to death. “And Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.” (Matt. 1:19) He could, as a justified man, have only done so according to Deut. 24:1.
Many professed Christians think that if their spouse is unfaithful, that Matt. 19:9 gives them the right to divorce them and remarry, without themselves committing and living in adultery, and thereby retain fellowship in the church. But, how deceived they are. Unfaithfulness does not void the contract, and marriage is a contract[MSOffice2] , one that cannot ever be broken. God speaking through Adam said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave (be glued, welded, and united into one) unto his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.” Jesus says that Scripture cannot be broken, (John 10:35) and, “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (divorced). (Matt. 19:6). The apostle Paul said, “The woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives[MSOffice3] .” (
Jesus was answering the hypocritical Pharisees and their question in Matt. 19:3 and Mark 10:2 “Is it LAWFUL for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.” And in the house His disciples asked Him again. To them Jesus said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” (Mark 10:10-12) “Whosoever putteth away his wife committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”(Luke 16:18)
Can a true disciple of our Lord put away his or her spouse for any cause and marry another, and retain fellowship with Christ Jesus and his family? The answer is an emphatic no! One might ask, “What am I to DO if my spouse is unfaithful, or puts me away? What must I do to retain fellowship with the church?” Jesus gave the answer to His disciples when they said, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is good not to marry. But Jesus said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom IT IS GIVEN. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have MADE THEMSELVES eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake(as Paul). He that is able to receive it, let HIM receive it.” (Matt. 19:10-12). If the above case should be our lot, and if we love the church and righteousness, we must remain unmarried and pure.
Shall we follow Moses and the Pharisees and their carnal traditions, or shall we follow and serve Christ? If our god is self and self gratification of the flesh, then we must go with the Pharisees, but if God is our God, we must say with every true child of God, and Joshua of old, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” (Jos. 24:15), by following Christ and His teaching. Marriage is a type of union between Christ and His church. The union of a marriage is for life and can only be broken by death, when time no longer exists for us. The union with our spiritual Husband cannot be broken in time or eternity, for God is eternal.
[Received by Leon King from a Predestinarian Discussion Group on Yahoo.Com, December 5, 2007]
[MSOffice1]These statements are true – and are the ground of the most difficult approach to the scriptures considering that we always go to the normal and common use of words as they are define in English to find understanding. This is a notable exception - LK
[MSOffice2]Yes – marriage is a covenant relationship. Sexual union outside of the covenant relationship is always fornication if committed by unmarried people. – LK
[MSOffice3] A most interesting concept that I have never considered before in exactly this way. No matter who assumes authority to do away with a marriage, they cannot do it for God has not given this permission to another. States and governors usurp God’s power when they grant a divorce – and the divorce is not truly a divorce at all when this happens. The parties remain married until one of them dies. - LK